Last week, I struggled with picking underdogs to cover but lose the game (BYU, Fresno). This week, the odds makers are tempting me to do the same thing. Four of the six Pac-12 home teams are underdogs and two of them are getting more than two TDs on their home turf. If it’s any consolation (and it is), the start of conference season reduces the number of games to pick to a much more manageable six. Here’s hoping that makes a difference.
As always, the lines come courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook. Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.
UCLA @ Colorado, UCLA -21.5
The Bruins very nearly stubbed their toe in the finale of their Charmin-soft non-conference schedule. The 32-31 win over South Alabama doesn’t make you want to lay three TDs on the road. On the other hand, Colorado is probably the worst P5 team in the country. The Buffs have lost all three games against solid-yet-unspectacular (unranked) opponents by an average margin of 33. They rank outside the top 125 nationally in both offensive and defensive Expected Points Added. Once again, Chip Kelly’s squad does not have an elite defense. The offense is balanced and effective. Given the matchups, there’s no way UCLA scores under 30 points and should push 40. Does Colorado have the firepower to even get to 20? They haven’t been close yet.
UCLA 40 – Colorado 17
Washington State @ Oregon, ORE -6.5
I expected the addition of Cam Ward and the return to the Air Raid to inject some life into a slowly degrading Coug offense. Thus far, Ward has been fine, but Jake Dickert’s defense has made the more impressive gains. The Ducks have taken care of business since laying an egg against Georgia. The dominant win over BYU is a meaningful notch in the belt. On the other hand, there is always the risk of Bo Nix playing them right out of a game. The Ducks have defended the run better than the pass, which plays into WSU’s hands. Lots of signs point in favor of the Cougs. Are they ready toshake up the conference hierarchy?
Oregon 30 – WSU 24
Arizona @ Cal, Cal -3
In contrast to the wacky lines in some of these games, this one features two mediocre teams separated by home field advantage. Arizona overcame a game North Dakota State squad last week due in part to some questionable coaching mistakes by the Bison. Cal hung with Notre Dame until the end, but it’s hard to tell what that means at this point. Cal features the customary pass rush and athletic secondary that has become the hallmark of a Justin Wilcox defense. Arizona relies heavily on Jayden de Laura’s arm. Cal’s defense will make him look more like the version that played Mississippi State than the one that beat NDSU and SDSU.
Cal 24 – Arizona 20
USC @ Oregon State, USC -6.5
Entering the season, I was skeptical that Lincoln Riley and Caleb Williams would replicate Oklahoma’s offensive success with a returning offensive line that was poor a year ago. That skepticism was misplaced. USC’s offense is elite. Aside from Williams, Travis Dye and Jordan Addison are All-American caliber skill position players. When the Trojans lose, it will be because the opponent ran the ball down their throat and minimized the offense’s chances. Jonathan Smith is certainly aware of this blueprint and Deshaun Fenwick is a good starting point to execute. Without APB Trey Lowe and TE Luke Musgrave, the Beavers might become too one-dimensional. I’m picking USC, but don’t be surprised if this game comes down to the last few minutes.
USC 38 – Oregon State 30
Utah @ Arizona State, Utah -15.5
Trying to anticipate how a team will respond to the coach’s firing is a fool’s errand. Just last year, we saw two teams fall to pieces (UW, USC) and another rally around the interim coach (WSU). That is to say, there are factors at play for the Sun Devils beyond the X’s and O’s. The Utes have only given up 14 total points since a disappointing defensive debut in The Swamp. In theory, ASU’s speed run attack should look a little like Florida’s. In reality, it hasn’t even been close to that level so far. ASU’s defense has been more competent. Is it possible for the offense to embrace the firing of Edwards and reach new heights under an interim staff? Sure, but I’m not betting on it.
Utah 37 – ASU 17
Stanford @ Washington, UW -13.5
Every Husky fan has nightmares about Stanford over the Harbaugh and Shaw years. Part of that nightmare is borne out of a stylistic clash of a UW defense designed to neutralize speedy spread offenses and a Stanford offense designed to bludgeon undersized defenses. While the feelings remain raw, the systems have changed on both sides, which gives the matchup a very different flavor.
Stanford’s move to a more RPO-centric offense has had mixed early returns. The Cardinal moved the ball well against USC, but had trouble converting those yards into points due to turnovers and negative plays. The increased aggressiveness of UW’s ILBs and Edges could blow up some of the slow mesh plays in the backfield, or they could run themselves out of position for some bigger gains. With a cast of big, talented receivers and TEs, Tanner McKee should be able to get short and medium yardage through the air, though the Cardinal lack the burner to punish UW’s deep ball vulnerability. The injury to EJ Smith could prove decisive. Emmitt’s son is Stanford’s most balanced running back and a prime source of the steady yardage they tallied against USC.
When UW has the ball, the matchup is more favorable. Michael Penix has carved up every defense he has faced this year and Stanford is several notches below Michigan State in quality. The combination of Jalen McMillan, Ja’Lynn Polk, and Rome Odunze is looking increasingly match-up proof due to the combination of size, speed, and technical ability the Dawgs feature across the position group. As the season progresses, it will be interesting to see if the Huskies get easier rushing yards as teams commit more defenders to helping in the secondary. We might start to see that trend as early as this week.
Ultimately, this game might look a lot like UW’s win a week ago- the defense gives up some points to an opponent with size and skill, but they force enough mistakes that the adversary cannot keep up with UW’s scoring output. The two-TD spread is a big number, and a UW win in the 7-10 point range would not surprise me in the least. But with Smith out, I’m taking a few points away from the Tree, which pushes UW into covering territory.
UW 40 – Stanford 24
What will be the result of the UW-Stanford game?
This poll is closed
UW wins by more than 13.5
UW wins by less than 13.5